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WITH A MAGICIAN OF CAIRO               87
finished. Listen! You must wrap up the fowl and take it home with you and keep it still enwrapped until to-morrow. Then when the hour of midnight arrives, you should stand on the Kasr-el-Nil bridge and throw its body into the Nile waters. As you throw it over the side do not forget to make a wish and one day the genie will cause your wish to come true."
My handkerchief was too small to cover the fowl completely, so, glancing around the room, I picked up a copy of Al Abram (The Pyramid), the popular Cairo newspaper, and wrapped it around the half-covered bird. When I returned home I gave the latter to my young Arab servant, with instructions not to unwrap the parcel and not even to touch it again until the following night. But the warning injunction was unnecessary. I lightly mentioned that it was a sacrificial fowl which had been slain by a magician, and that it was on no account to be eaten. The servant drew back, affrighted; and thereafter avoided the neighbourhood of the bird as much as possible.
That evening, I was dining in a restaurant with a couple of friends, one American and the other Egyptian, and I told them the whole story of the fowl and its magical sacrifice. They were quite sure that it had been killed by some other means than magic, whilst I passed no judgment but kept an open mind. As I unfolded all the details to them, they roared with laughter and for the rest of the evening that fowl dominated our conversation. I must confess that I, too, had to smile at some of their witty sallies at the absent magician, who became the butt of their dever jokes. Suddenly every light in the restaurant went out, whilst we were still in the midst of our meal. Despite the best efforts of the proprietor, he could not restore the illumination; he finally had to send out for candles, and we finished our dinner in comparative gloom.
My Egyptian friend, a convinced sceptic who had been educated at the Sorbonne, temporarily lost his brilliance of wit and lightness of spirits.
"Your magician has done this!" he complained, and I detected a tinge of fear under his joking remark.
The thing might have been a merely accidental fusing of a wire, of course, but it took place under circumstances which reminded me of two other curious incidents not very unlike it in character. The first came within my own personal experience, the second I heard from the lips of Robert Hichens, the famous novelist, who knew the principal character concerned.